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Saturday, March 22, 2014

Happy Nowruz to my Iranian friends!

"Give me wings of freedom so I can fly,
  I wanna fly high. I wanna soar.
 Give me wings of freedom or let me die,
 I wanna touch the sky. I wanna soar!"
       (The Rose of Nowruz)

March 20 marks the first day of Spring and the official beginning of the Persian New Year for my Iranian friends. "Nowruz" or literally, "new day," is the title of the Spring Festival that ushers in the beginning of another year in the Persian calendar. Rooted in the rich history of the Zoroastrian religion, Nowruz is a the cherished time of Spring renewal, which includes eating and celebrating with families. In preparation, Iranians busily engage in house cleaning and shopping for clothes to look their best for the great new year's event. One of the central features of Nowruz is the Haft Seen Table. Iranians erect a small table in their home and according to tradition place items on the table that begin with the letter "S." 
Sabez, (lentil sprouts) are placed in a dish of water, symbolizing rebirth. Sib (apples) are placed next on the table which symbolizes, beauty and health. Samanu ( tasty pudding) is added to the table, symbolizing affluence. Serkeh, (vinegar) is added to the table, symbolizing, old age and patience. Sir (garlic) is a very important addition, symbolizing medicine for healing. Senjed, (wild olive fruit) symbolizing love, and finally Somaq is placed on the table symbolizing the color of sunrise.
The Haft Seen Table is rich in symbolism and sets the mood for the beginning of the Persian New Year. 
Last year, I published a very important book to bring awareness to the Western world about the struggle of my Iranians friends for human rights and freedom. "The Rose of Nowruz, dreams of hope and freedom," is the story of a young concert violinist named Bahareh who lives in Tehran.
The beautiful red rose was Bahareh's favorite flower and she composes a song about a rose as the symbol of freedom during the Nowruz celebration. Desperate to see her friends have freedom from an oppressive government, Bahareh can no longer be silent and becomes a human rights activist in the heart of the Islamic republic of Iran.
Since the publication, I have had the incredible privilege of sending the pdf files of my book to my friends in Iran including several human rights groups in Canada.
1393, (Persian calendar) marks the official start of the Persian New year. But, what can my Iranian friends expect this year? What kind of hope do they have? Will they see an end to the oppression and fear? Will they finally realize their hopes and dreams?
1393 begins with Hassan Rouhani as the new president in Iran. During the election last year, he campaigned as a "moderate" promising some social and economic freedoms, but his track record thus far is anything but "moderate." Since becoming president, executions have spiked, over 687 prisoners were put to death last year. Political activists, human rights defenders, journalist and bloggers, are still behind bars, being punished for speaking out and forced to keep silent.
Campaigning as a "moderate" assured Rouhani of a victory and prevented a repeat of the violence in the last election and once again gave The Islamic Republic control of its people!
In spite of the failed promises of Rouhani, my dear Iranian friends gaze at their "haft seen " tables looking for hope and freedom. They celebrate in the midst of a society that deprives them of their basic human rights to dress, speak and believe as they choose.
This year I decorated my Facebook page with pictures of Haft seen tables and did a special radio program celebrating the new year with them. I was supposed to be a guest at the home of one of my dear Iranian friends via Skype for the start of Nowruz, but internet problems prevented that cherished event from happening. So instead, I put the picture of her table on my timeline and dedicated my page to her!
My friends in Iran are the most precious friends in the world to me! My blogs and my books are all about them! They are the focus and passion of my life.
This is my New Year's prayer for them:

"My dear friends in Iran."
  I pray that your new year is filled with peace, prosperity and freedom! As you gather together with your families this year and sit before your haft seen tables, please don't forget that I am thinking of you and praying for you.
I am praying that God will give you the desires of your heart and that your dreams and visions of the future will one day be finally realized. I am praying that one day you will have a free Iran where you can walk down the streets without fear of being monitored, without fear of being stopped because of the way that you dress. 
I am praying for the day that you can believe as you choose, that you can speak your mind without fear and imprisonment.
I am praying for the day that you will have true freedom. I believe that day will come, my dear Iranian friends. I know that God hears the cries of your hearts. Your lives are precious to Him. He will deliver you from all fear and oppression. I wanted to leave you with a promise from the Bible describing that day of freedom that I have spoken to you about.

" I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, "Look, God's home is now among his people. He will live with them and they will be His people. God Himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All

these things are gone forever. 
And the one sitting on the throne said, "Look I am making everything new! And He said to me, "Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true!"
                                    (Revelation 21: 3-5)